Some Lawmakers Reconsidering VAMs in the South

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A few weeks ago in Education Week, Stephen Sawchuk and Emmanuel Felton wrote a post in the its Teacher Beat blog about lawmakers, particularly in the southern states, who are beginning to reconsider, via legislation, the role of test scores and value-added measures in their states’ teacher evaluation systems. Perhaps the tides are turning.

I tweeted this one out, but I also pasted this (short) one below to make sure you all, especially those of you teaching and/or residing in states like Georgia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Virginia, did not miss it.

Southern Lawmakers Reconsidering Role of Test Scores in Teacher Evaluations

After years of fierce debates over effectiveness and fairness of the methodology, several southern lawmakers are looking to minimize the weight placed on so called value-added measures, derived from how much students’ test scores changed, in teacher-evaluation systems.

In part because these states are home to some of the weakest teachers unions in the country, southern policymakers were able to push past arguments that the state tests were ill suited for teacher-evaluation purposes and that the system would punish teachers for working in the toughest classrooms. States like Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee, became some of the earliest and strongest adopters of the practice. But in the past few weeks, lawmakers from Baton Rouge, La., to Atlanta have introduced bills to limit the practice.

In February, the Georgia Senate unanimously passed a bill that would reduce the student-growth component from 50 percent of a teachers’ evaluation down to 30 percent. Earlier this week, nearly 30 individuals signed up to speak on behalf fo the bill at a State House hearing.

Similarly, Louisiana House Bill 479 would reduce student-growth weight from 50 percent to 35 percent. Tennessee House Bill 1453 would reduce the weight of student-growth data through the 2018-2019 school year and would require the state Board of Education to produce a report evaluating the policy’s ongoing effectiveness. Lawmakers in Florida, Kentucky, and Oklahoma have introduced similar bills, according to the Southern Regional Education Board’s 2016 educator-effectiveness bill tracker.

By and large, states adopted these test-score centric teacher-evaluation systems to attain waivers from No Child Left Behind’s requirement that all students by proficient by 2014. To get a waiver, states had to adopt systems that evaluated teachers “in significant part, based on student growth.” That has looked very different from state to state, ranging from 20 percent in Utah to 50 percent in states like Alaska, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

No Child Left Behind’s replacement, the Every Student Succeeds Act, doesn’t require states to have a teacher-evaluation system at all, but, as my colleague Stephen Sawchuk reported, the nation’s state superintendents say they remain committed to maintaining systems that regularly review teachers.

But, as Sawchuk reported, Steven Staples, Virginia’s state superintendent, signaled that his state may move away from its current system where student test scores make up 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation:

“What we’ve found is that through our experience [with the NCLB waivers], we have had some unintended outcomes. The biggest one is that there’s an over-reliance on a single measure; too many of our divisions defaulted to the statewide standardized test … and their feedback was that because that was a focus [of the federal government], they felt they needed to emphasize that, ignoring some other factors. It also drove a real emphasis on a summative, final evaluation. And it resulted in our best teachers running away from our most challenged.”

Some state lawmakers appear to absorbing a similar message

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One thought on “Some Lawmakers Reconsidering VAMs in the South

  1. Please notice what ten California districts organized as CORE Districts have succeeded in getting approved as an RTT waiver, bypassing the state architecture of accountability altogether by creating a School Quality Improvement Index, with a ten point scale and growth measures that include but go well beyond the data gathering required by the state.
    This initiative is properly called a federal-billionaire arrangement, with MOUs signed only by superintendents, no boards of education involved, and a data gathering scheme reaching over one million students.
    Measures of school climate and social emotional learning are included in the index, with much of that information coming from student, staff, and parent/caregiver surveys. There are multiple “partners” aiding and abetting this venture, including scholars at Stanford’s John W. Gardner Center.
    A parallel venture has been initiated for east coast charter schools with Harvard and MIT the sources of scholarship and metrics for SEL.
    The CORE Districts are just rolling out their ratings of schools, with only token oversight by a jerry-rigged committee.
    Worst of all, the ratings of individual schools are posted on the website greatschools.org, a non-profit that also functions as a sales venue for profit seekers and redlining.
    This initiative is full of spin about accountability and collaboration, and so on. The producers of this federally approved and foundation financed scheme seem to be confident that it will survive when the token rationale for its formation, an RTT waiver, expires.
    The acronym CORE stands for California Ofice to Reform Education, a non-profit shell and shill for the iniative. There were six districts at the beginning of this “waiver” initiative. Now the number is ten–Long Beach, Los Angeles, Santa Anna, Sanger, Oakland, Garden Grove, Clovis, SanFrancisco, Sacremento, and Fresno.

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